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Breastfeeding strengthens babies' immune system

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Mothers can reduce their baby’s chances of common infections by breastfeeding for six months, according to new research.

A study completed at the University of Crete revealed that infants who were solely fed on their mother’s milk were considerably more healthy and endured fewer and less severe infections than others on substitute formulas.

The study also found these positive effects were not felt by children who were only partially breastfed.

Researchers examined almost 1,000 babies for 12 months as part of the investigation, noting any infections at three-month intervals. Typically these infections included: respiratory and urinary infections, stomach upsets, ear infections, conjunctivitis and thrush.

All of the babies in the study were chosen from the 6,878 born in Crete in 2004, and they all had access to a high standard of healthcare and routine vaccinations.

Other factors influencing the frequency of infections were: the exposure to a tobacco smoke environment, parental age and education, ethnic backgrounds and the number of siblings.

The article appears online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, published by the British Medical Journal.

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